This past spring Msgr. Arthur Burton Calkins gave a talk at the annual meeting of the Latin Liturgical Association, in Chicago, entitled: The Latin Liturgical Tradition: Extending and Solidifying the Continuity, which recently was published on the Internet, and rebutted in The Remnant.
The author, Msgr. Calkins, works for the Ecclesia Dei Commission, and apart from this, has made a reputation for himself by his learned and erudite works on the Corredemption in the writings and talks of our present Holy Father, Pope John Paul II.
In the above-mentioned talk, Msgr. Calkins discusses, however, another topic, that of the catholicity of the recent Council and its implementations, specifically in matters of the liturgy. And in his talk he clearly upholds the position that the Novus Ordo and its accompanying rites is the certain and catholic path for ecclesial development in the Third Millennium.
The purpose of this present article is to give a reply to the underlying assumptions and theories from which Msgr. Calkins derives his conclusions, and to show, in a respectful manner, how at this level error has led to erroneous conclusions, and that the Catholic path is rather a different one than that sketched out by the Monsignor.
Some Essential Principles of Catholicity pertaining to the present discussion
The Catholic Church was founded by the historical Christ to be a perpetual institution offering His Salivation to the peoples of all times. Since the Eternal Word of God deigned to associate with men by partaking of our human nature in His assumption of it from the Immaculate Virgin Mary, it was indeed fitting and proper that as our Savior, He be also our Master [Lat. magister], our Teacher, the Messiah.
Since our Savior came not only to restore the proper order between the corporal and the spiritual, but also between the spiritual and the Divine, it was necessary that He be principally and first a Teacher of Divine Truth; and accordingly He first taught and then He suffered.
This being the case, as members of His True Church, we are first and essentially disciples. And because of this it is proper and necessary that we be students and teachers. Students inasmuch as we must always be learners of Christ's teaching as it is handed-down in the Church. Teachers inasmuch as in general, we must always be ready to offer an explanation for what we believe in Christ as Catholics (cf. 1 Peter 3:15), and in particular those of us entrusted with a teaching office, whether Pope, Bishop, Pastor, or catechist, to give official testimony to the truth of what the Church believes.
Now, by mentioning this principal, I do not imply nor wish, even in appearance, to imply that the reverend Monsignor does not know this, nor that any reader of his talk or of this essay is unaware of this; but rather to call to mind this principle which, as you will see from below, is essential to a right understanding of the current crisis.
For now, I wish only to draw this conclusion, namely, that in this reply that I aim to give Msgr. Calkins, it is my intention to take the place of a disciple of the Roman Church, in which place I address the Monsignor in his stead as teacher, since I believe that this will manifest in the clearest way the manner in which I wish to point out the fundamental errors which I believe he is unaware of in his thesis; and that in this I wish no disrespect to the reverend Monsignor, but out of the charity I bear him in Christ and in the reverence I hold him as a disciple of the Roman Church, I wish for the sake of the Truth and his soul to make known to him what I see to be very wrong objectively.
It is for this reason I have chosen to reply anonymously, so that the truth of what I write may be judged on that basis, and not on the basis of a suspicion of factionalism or ecclesiastical politics or traditionalistic maneuvers, nor of any real or supposed ill will to Msgr. Calkins or the Latin Liturgical Association.
2. Diachronic Identity
In the very fact of the Incarnation of the Word there is necessitated that the truth of His Teaching and the Message of His Work in Redeeming be made known down through the ages to all peoples of all time. For this reason, so that the Teaching and Message remain faithfully propagated across time and language and culture it is necessary that the hallmark of diachronic identity be safeguarded to the utmost by those entrusted with guarding the Deposit of the Faith, that is, by the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him.
Diachronic is a word of Greek root meaning across time; identity a word of Latin origin meaning sameness. To speak therefore of a diachronic identity is to speak of a sameness across time. This diachronic identity is the hallmark of authentic Catholic dogma and doctrine, in faith and morals, since being the True Church, against which Christ promised that the Gates of Hell would never prevail (cf. Mt. 16:18), it is de fide that She shall never be corrupted in Her Magisterium by errors of faith or morals, and hence shall always teach faithfully what Christ Himself taught and wishes taught until the end of time, the consummation of the age.
This principle of diachronic identity is at the foundation of the Catholic notion of Sacred Tradition and ecclesiastical tradition. For the living comprehension of Divine Revelation had in Sacred Scripture is maintained incorrupt and authentic in Sacred Tradition, the both of which are perpetuated faithfully by the Church by means of ecclesiastical tradition. This is why the Second, Sacrosanct and Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 787 A.D. condemned in its fourth infallible, dogmatic canon the following error:If anyone despises or rejects either written or unwritten ecclesiastical tradition, anathema sit.
Anathema sit is a greco-latin phrase meaning let him be accursed. It is therefore no exaggeration to hold such an error to be a grave sin against both the faith and right morals; and hence to abhor it with all one's mind and soul. Since this is not possible unless one in practice avoid this error and what flows from it in behavior, there is a corresponding duty on behalf of all the faithful, Pope down to layman in the pew, to see to it that nothing corrupt the diachronic identity of catholicity by means of despising or rejecting any written or unwritten ecclesiastical tradition.
The Authority of Vatican II
Since the principle upon which the post-conciliar renewal was undertaken is the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, and since it therefore will have to be addressed in this reply to Msgr. Calkins, it is necessary first to explain what a Catholic must hold in its regard, and hence what specifically was the note of authority with which it was promulgated and the corresponding obedience due its documents.
The documents of the Second Sacrosanct Ecumenical Council of the Vatican are acts of the authentic Church exercising in an extraordinary form the authentic Ordinary Magisterium. In this regard it is crucial to a right understanding of Vatican II to remember what His Holiness Pope John XXIII declared in his opening discourse (L'Osservatore Romano 10/12/1962), what was reaffirmed by the Secretariate of the Council (November 16, 1964), by His Holiness Pope Paul VI at the close of the Council (L'Osservatore Romano, 12/7/1965; AAS 1967,57; Audience of 1/12/1966 published in L'Osservatore Romano 1/21/1966) namely that the Council did not intend, nor did it in fact propose any teaching as an infallible, irreformable definition. His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, addressing the Chilean Episcopal Conference (cf. Il Sabato 7/30--8/5/1988), reaffirmed the same when he said, "The truth is that the Council itself did not define any dogma, and that it consciously wanted to express itself on a more modest level, simply as a pastoral Council." Vatican II therefore is an exercise of the prudential Magisterium, that is of the authentic teaching office exercised in a non-infallible, consultory manner, which inasmuch as it reiterates that faith once and forever handed on to the Apostles by Christ Our Lord accurately is infallible (evidencing the Ordinary Magisterium) and when inaccurately, is fallible.
And so in all matters, wherein Vatican II proposes novel teachings and or novel expressions, the Catholic faithful are not obliged in conscience to accept these as definitive teaching; and moreover they may reject these expressions, if after sufficient study they find them to be objectively erroneous (cf. The Church of the Word Incarnate, by Cardinal Journet). To this extent therefore it is licit for the faithful in communion with the rightful and true successor of St. Peter, His Holiness Pope John Paul II, to examine the texts of the Council's documents and to identify and propose alterations which would make any such statements more conformable to the infallible Magisterium of the Church.
Therefore to speak of errors in the Council's texts is not to accuse the Church of imposing error, since neither the Council nor Pope Paul VI imposed the acceptance of the teaching of Vatican II with the obligation of the assent of divine faith, but merely with a religious respect [obsequium religiosum], which according to Cardinal Journet (ibid., section on "The Condemnation of Galileo"), may be broken if sufficient study shows objective reasons. If any study therefore proposes emendations and corrections to the Council's "teaching" in order to call attention to the inherent instability of the documents in being a norm for theological guidance and pastoral action, they cannot be accused of separating themselves from the Roman Pontiff, who himself stated (Ecclesia Dei adflicta) that Vatican II must be understood in harmony with Sacred Tradition and the perennial Magisterium.
Moderism, Neo-Moderism and the New Theology
Pope St. Pius X, in his many writings, defined modernism as a compendium of heresies which fundamentally viewed the Catholic Church from without, taking for itself, as it did, a different notion of "faith" as a religious sense, and hence understood and practiced the Catholic Faith as a fulfillment of interior longing and a right-sentiment appropriate to themselves and the age in which the lived. Since times were changing they advocated novelties of all kinds, and although this saintly pope did much to overturn their power in the Church, their many errors sprang up anew especially during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII.
One of the most prestigious catholic, theological journals during the reign of Pius XII, was the Angelicum, the official theological organ of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas, the Dominican center of scholarship, in Rome. In 1946 there appeared an article entitled, "La nouvelle théologie où va-t-elle?", or "The New Theology, where is it leading us?". This article was written by Father Reginald Garrigou-lagrange, O.P., one of the professors of Karol Woytla, the current Pontiff. It was reprinted in an English translation from the French, by Suzanne M. Rini, and published in Catholic Family News [Aug. 1998; vol. 5, no. 8, pp 1, 21-26].
The very first point that the theologian Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange criticizes is the new definition of truth put forward by Father Henri Boulliar, in the latter's book Conversion et gràce chez S. Thomas d'Aquin, (1944 p. 219):"Since spirit evolves, an unchanging truth can only maintain itself by virtue of simultaneous and co-relative evolution of all ideas, each proportionate to the other. A theology which is not current will be a false theology."
Though there is not time here to discuss the many fine points of this article by Father Garrigou-Lagrange, it is sufficient to point out that this error of Father Boulliard harkens formally back to the Modernist error condemned by Pope St. Pius X:"Truth is not more immutable than man himself, which (truth) indeed is evolved with him, in him and through him." (Denz. 2080)
This new definition of truth was officially condemned again on December 1, 1924, when the Holy Office censured twelve propositions taken from the philosophy of action. The fifth error condemned read:"Truth is not found in any particular act of the intellect wherein conformity with the object would be had, as the Scholastics say, but rather truth is always in a state of becoming, and consists in a progressive alignment of the understanding with life, indeed a certain perpetual process, by which the intellect strives to develop and explain that which experience presents or action requires: by which principle, moreover, as in all progression, nothing is ever determined or fixed."
The twelfth error condemned read:"Even after Faith has been received, man ought not to rest in the dogmas of religion, and hold fast to them fixedly and immovably, but always solicitous to remain moving ahead toward a deeper truth and even evolving into new notions, and even correcting that which he believes".
And finally, Pope Pius XII, who himself explicitly condemned the fundamental thesis of the New Theology in a discourse published in L'Osservatore Romano, (December 19, 1946):"There is a good deal of talk (but without the necessary clarity of concept) about a 'new theology', which must be in constant transformation, following the example of all other things in the world, which are in a constant state of flux and movement, without ever reaching their term. If we were to accept such an opinion, what would become of the unchangeable dogmas of the Catholic Faith, and what would be come of the unity and stability of the Faith?"
It must be noted here, in particular, that one proponent, indeed one of the chief proponents of the New Theology, was none other that Father Henri de Lubac. Although his book The Supernatural was censured by the Holy Office during the pontificate of Pius XII, it was nevertheless held and used by the neo-modernists to form the malleable minds of up and coming new priest-theologians. This was confirmed openly by Father Peter Henrici, S. J., in an article that appeared in the international theological journal Communio (Nov. - Dec. 1990).
The Principle of the New Theology in the Documents of Vatican II
It is not surprising therefore to find, that during the pontificate of Pope John XXIII when such theologians as Father de Lubac, were not only rehabilitated without explicitly denying their former theses, but were invited to the Council as periti, that such crucial conciliar documents as the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation fell prey to their outlook. Msgr. Calkins quotes this for us:"The Tradition that comes from the apostles makes progress in the Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts (cf. Lk. 2:19 and 15). It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth. Thus, as the centuries go by, the Church is always advancing towards the plenitude of divine truth until eventually the words of God are fulfilled in her" (n. 8)
The key phrase here is . . . the Church is always advancing towards the plenitude of divine truth . . .. At first this may seem Catholic, because it is in fact true to say that the members of the Church are progressing towards the plenitude of the understanding of Divine Truth. But to say that the Church Herself is in progress toward the plenitude of divine truth, means literally that She is not yet in the possession of it, and that therefore the words of Christ to the Apostles in the Upper Room,"But when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will teach you all truth," (John 16:13)
"But I have called you friends: because all things whatsoever I have heard from My Father, I have made known to you." (John 15:15b)
are either false or are required to be interpreted in the sense that Christ is not God and that the Apostles did not posses the fullness of Divine Revelation, both of which are heretical.
Furthermore, if such a proposition were true, namely that the Church is in progress toward the plenitude of divine truth there would follow the necessity that She be in a constant change of updating and transformation, both of doctrine and dogma, faith and morals, liturgy and discipline, so as to conform Herself to the plenitude now more grasped. While it is true that the members progress in their own understanding of the Divine Truth, and that this requires a more clear and explicitly holding of the Faith once handed over to the Apostles, nevertheless the fact that the Apostles and the Church through them already have the plenitude of the Divine Truth, is the very principle underlying diachronic identity.
This is so, because a field of knowledge that is incomplete is not identical to one which is, and certainly is not a plenitude in respect of the latter. Now an incomplete knowledge is not an accurate one; nor is it diachronically identical in content with the fuller one. But identity as a concept requires the notion of sameness in the reckoning of quantity and quality, for that is what identity means. And so it is clear that Dei Verbum, the very conciliar document which Msgr. Calkins first quotes in his talk, is in its teaching at least very distorted, and hence is a formal cause of a distorted understanding of the very nature of Sacred Tradition and ecclesiastical tradition, precisely because it denies the diachronic identity of the Church's grasp of Divine Revelation.
This implicit denial of diachronic identity is the theological reason for the neo-modernist advocacy of the necessity of the Aggiornomento [Italian for updating] and a liturgical renewal according to the principles set forth in Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Vatican II document on the Renewal of the Liturgy. We see this in several crucial principles contained in the document itself:
1. "This sacred Council has several aims in view: . . . to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change;" (n. 1)
2. "The Council also desires that, where necessary, the rites be revised carefully in the light of sound tradition, and that they be given new vigor to meet the circumstances and needs of modern times." (n. 4)
3. "In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit;" (n. 14)
The first principle is formally condemned by the Apostle Paul, who wrote: Do not conform yourselves to the present age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2). This is not to say that the Church is not in the present, but that the authentic principle of pastoral action is not conformity to the present, but conformity to Christ, and thus by setting out a liturgical renewal on an erroneous footing, the very liturgical renewal as advocated by the Council itself -- it is not a question of adaptations of it -- is fundamentally flawed and will hence result in applications which are deleterious to the diachronic identity of the faith. This is inevitable, because as soon as one looks away from Christ, one looses one's footing, according to the teaching of the Gospel (e.g. Peter walking on the Sea of Galilee).
The second principle just quoted contains this implicit denial of the diachronic identity and the plenitude of Divine Truth, inasmuch as it says revised carefully in the light of sound tradition. For in saying that the Roman Rite, which is the ecclesiastical tradition of the Mass in the Latin Church must be revised in the light of sound tradition implies that it is not in conformity with sound tradition; and by "sound tradition" there is here meant "ecclesiastical tradition", since the Council is wont to distinguish Tradition from tradition by the appellation of Sacred to the former. Hence this second principle also implies that the liturgical tradition of the Roman Church is not in conformity with the ecclesiastical tradition of the Church. But this is impossible unless the Church Herself had failed to authentically propagate the Deposit of the Faith in ecclesiastical tradition. And since the Roman Rite it itself a written form of ecclesiastical tradition, it is impossible to conceive how it needs to be revised without violating the 4th Canon of Nicea II, namely, by despising or rejecting any written or unwritten ecclesiastical tradition, from the very definition of "despise": to look down upon, and hence to place one's self in a superior position, from which it can be judge and criticized, or in other words, "revised and updated".
The third principle reflects the new definition of truth put forth by the New Theology, namely that truth must be conformed to life, and therefore the worship of Truth to the life of believers, which cannot be accomplished without the adequation and thus adaptation of the liturgy to the active energies (life) of the participants. From the vernacular translations of the document available at the Vatican website, it is not clear whether by for it is the primary and indispensable source refers to the participation or to the liturgy; but this would, if true, be only a further confirmation of the disoriented view of the document, since it is rather the Sacraments themselves, as "instruments of the Divine Mercy" (cf. St. Thomas, IV. Sent., q. 1, a. 4), which are principally the source of the Christian life in the Church, not the liturgy or the activity of the participants in it.
A Faulty Ecclesiology at the Root of Intransigence
From the fundamental error of the New Theology there is a corresponding and derived error in ecclesiology which is widespread in the Hierarchy today. Msgr. Calkins points this out to us, unawares, in quoting Father de Lubac:"The Church which we call our Mother is not some ideal and unreal Church but this hierarchical Church herself; not the Church as we might dream her but the Church as she exists in fact, here and now." (The Splendor of the Church, Paulist Press, 1963, p. 161.)
This error is at the root of the intransigence of the Conciliar party in the Church today, and why they cannot even conceive that they have walked down an erroneous path to the utter destruction of so many members of the Church and aspects of the ecclesiastical life of the Church. This error consists in erroneously identifying the focal point of the fidelity of a Catholic with the Church as She exists in fact, here and now, to quote Father de Lubac. No, the focal point, the reference point of every Catholic is rather the True Church, existing now, as Christ wants Her to be. There is a vast irreconcilable difference in these two theses. The former equates the present reality with the truth, following the neo-modernists definition, which I quoted earlier from Father Garrigou-Lagrange: but rather truth is always in a state of becoming, and consists in a progressive alignment of the understanding with life. The latter, more catholic definition, defines the True Church not formally as She is now in history, but existentially as She is now in history, but formally as Christ wills Her to be. The consequent errors of Father de Lubac's realignment of Catholic fidelity are patent: if our loyalty is to the Church as She is here and now, with all Her strengths and weaknesses, then we are disloyal precisely when we advocate authentic restoration of what never should have been lost or suppressed. And hence any criticism of unjust or unwise discipline, no matter how deleterious an effect it has in the Church of today, nay rather even in spite of this, is essentially the work of infidelity, according to the principle enunciated by de Lubac.
This may be why Msgr. Calkins, despite all he must know first hand about liturgical abuses and the widespread and profound ecclesiastical abuses and disfunctionality of the Church of today, felt compelled to subtitle his talk "Extending and Solidifying the Continuity". Precisely because the Church of today, as She is, with good and bad, is the locus of fidelity, that one accepting this new notion of the nature of the True Church, must necessarily ignore the non-continuity, the distention of the Church in Her members, and the instability in nearly every institution.
The Way to Restoration
I have never met one of the so-called fanatics, of which Msgr. Calkins speaks in his talk, who are willing to restore the liturgical books of 1962 no matter what the cost. What I am familiar with are aggiornomentoists, who are willing to renew the Church according to modernists principles no matter what the cost. But I do not call them "fanatics"; they're just wicked people.
The way to Restoration is through the restoration, first in the minds and hearts of the Hierarchy, of a practical acceptance of the definitive teachings of the infallible Ecumenical Councils, especially those of Nicea II and Trent. In the fourth canon of the Second Council of Nicea, in 787 A.D., the Church infallibly taught that"if anyone despises or rejects any written or unwritten ecclesiastical tradition, anathema sit".
This means that the Church cannot, and no member thereof can ever sit in judgment upon the traditional liturgies of the Church, nor forego or alienate them from the life of the Church, nor revise them in harmony with any principle that is more correct. It is rather the Church which is subject to the traditional rites, and must always accept and reverence and allow their use.
The Council of Trent in its Seventh Session, canon 13, declared:"If any one saith, that the received and approved rites of the Catholic Church, wont to be used in the solemn administration of the sacraments, may be contemned, or without sin be omitted at pleasure by the ministers, or be changed, by any pastor of the churches whomsoever, into other new ones; let him be anathema".
This, in reference to the Liturgy, is a reaffirmation and extension of the 4th Anathema of Nicea II. In stating that no pastor of the churches whomsoever [per quemcumque pastorem ecclesiarum] it forbids even action by the Roman Pontiff, even in confirmation or union with a future Ecumenical Council, against the Rites of the Church as they existed at the time of Trent. This canon explains why the Roman Rite was preserved integrally since Trent, and why no Roman Pontiff until the reign of Pius XII dared alter the Missale Romanum.
When the infallible and irreformable teachings of the Church once again become the norm of truth, supplanting the widespread acceptance of the New Theology's new definition, the Church will be on the way to uprooting the errors of Vatican II and the post conciliar implementations thereof. But this is not going to happen soon, so long as New Theologians such as Cardinal de Lubac and Hans urs von Balthasar are lauded and honored, especially by our Holy Father and the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
I believe the Restoration will only come with a new generation of clergy who did not build up their careers upon the implementation of the Council at any cost, but who are moved with a true filial piety toward the True Church, now existing, but as Christ wants Her to be, and an authentic acceptance in mind and heart and deed of the principles of catholicity so accurately and concisely vindicated by the infallible dogmatic definitions of the Ecumenical Councils; and by a Roman Pontiff with the virtue to condemn explicitly the errors at the root of the Conciliar crisis.
Till that day, we all must pray, do much penance, and give the best example of charity and fidelity to the Truth.